WARSAW, 27 February 2016 - On Saturday over 150 thousand people from all over Poland joined in demonstrations against the current government. © Jaap Arriens | Flickr
DemocracyDemocracy ForumEssaysFeature

The Illiberal International

Stalin, in the first decade of Soviet power, backed the idea of “socialism in one country,” meaning that, until conditions ripened, socialism was for the USSR alone. When Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán declared, in July 2014, his intention to build an “illiberal democracy,” it was widely assumed that he was creating “illiberalism in one country.” Now, Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, and puppet-master of the country’s government (though he holds no office) have proclaimed a counter-revolution aimed at turning the European Union into an illiberal project. …

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Brexit protest 13 © Garon S | Flickr
DemocracyDemocracy ForumEssaysFeature

Are EU Exit Referenda Good for Democracy?

Referenda are important instruments of democratic politics. They have been used since the late eighteenth century in various circumstances of political life, most often in relation to constitutional change or issues of self-determination. In contemporary democratic societies, there is pressure to submit contested political questions to popular vote, in order to reduce tensions between popular will and governance. Even democratic governments which are not constitutionally obliged to do so now feel compelled to consult the people directly. 

Brexit, the UK’s referendum on whether to stay in the EU, reflects this tendency. It is not the first referendum on EU matters. And yet, there is novelty here: the people were deciding directly whether to leave an organization of democratic states, …

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York Against Brexit Rally © Pete Lambert |Flickr
DemocracyEssaysFeatureIn Depth

20th Century European Lessons for a 21st Century Brexit

It seems that June 23rd 2016 has become a new “zero hour” moment in European history, though I doubt it will go down in history as one next to November 9th 1989 or May 8th 1945. Those were system changing dates that eventually rippled around the world and signaled the coming of new eras in international relations history: from the multipolar world, to the bipolar cold war, and to the unipolar moment/era of U.S. supremacy. No, Brexit’s date will most likely join the other not so remembered — but still greatly important — days of European pitfall, which triggered constitutional and foreign relations turning points. 

Three dates/events come to mind: first February 21st 1947, when Great Britain relinquished its Mediterranean and European balance of power role by no longer guaranteeing Greece’s and Turkey’s security. …

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